By Kelsey Stewart
The Wednesday, May 1, hearing in Department 9 confirmed many people’s fears about online dating and the repercussions of meeting online. Defendants Leilani Elise Bonge, Andrew Louis Ferber and Kyra Marie Harnois are being charged for an armed robbery and shooting that took place on April 7, 2019, following a meeting on a dating website.
Ms. Bonge met the 37-year-old victim on a dating website called “Skout.” Ms. Bonge testified to being 18 years old and acting as an escort in the past in Vacaville. She claimed to offer sexual services for money since her mother lost her job and the apartment they occupy is expensive.
Ms. Bonge conversed with the victim over text messages and phone calls for two hours before agreeing to meet up with him. She arrived at his apartment in West Sacramento, with her two friends in tow occupying a white Hyundai outside. He insisted in his testimony that he had not intended to pay Ms. Bonge for performing sexual acts, but merely wanted to get to know her. He admitted to giving Ms. Bonge 10 dollars for gas money, which she asked for.
After going inside for five minutes and returning, the victim was shot at by Mr. Ferber, Ms. Harnois’ boyfriend, who yelled at him to give him his wallet. The vehicle sped away and ended up being pulled over outside a Fosters Freeze.
Wednesday’s court session began with the resumption of Detective Andrea King’s cross-examination. Detective King interviewed both the victim and the defendants. King stated that the victim was coherent when interviewed at the hospital, although he admitted to drinking earlier, and he had a past history of alcohol abuse.
Detective King also testified that, while being interviewed, Ms. Bonge claimed that she offered up Ms. Harnois along with herself for free, which resulted in the victim allegedly groping Ms. Harnois and attempting to kiss her while she fought him. Detective King assumed that Ms. Harnois was made aware of this arrangement since they were both outside the vehicle when it was mentioned, yet she was not certain.
Closing statements then began in the courtroom. Deputy District Attorney Rachel Raymond for the People cited that there was evidence of the two young women conspiring to steal the wallet of the victim, with previous conversations intending to take his wallet. She stressed that Mr. Ferber should be held accountable for great bodily injury since the victim has had to spend the last three weeks in physical therapy and underwent surgery. The semi-automatic black gun in the backpack was evidence of the possession of a firearm.
Deputy Public Defender Dave Muller, in defense of Mr. Ferber, noted the untrustworthiness of the victim’s testimony. The victim had changed his story about why he went inside his apartment two times – he first claimed he went back inside his apartment to grab a beer. The second time, he said it was to call a motel to book a room for himself and the two girls.
Mr. Muller noted the victim’s past with alcohol abuse and how “there is no such thing as three beers for an alcoholic.” He stated that the fact that the victim was drinking during the encounter and during his interview questions the validity of his statements. Mr. Muller also offered how his client, Mr. Ferber, was acting in defense of his girlfriend when he fired the shot after witnessing Ms. Harnois being sexually assaulted by the victim.
The closing argument from Attorney Jeffrey Raven were impassioned as he claimed that Ms. Harnois could not be guilty in a conspiracy that was unplanned. The aiding and abetting charge does not apply, according to Mr. Raven, since the two women were acting in the moment and had no established plan to carry out the robbery and assault. He cited the sexual assault that Ms. Harnois allegedly suffered from the victim, and that the theft was merely opportunistic.
The court ruled that the defendants will be held accountable for all initial six counts in an upcoming trial. The defendants will respond to a count of second degree robbery, two counts of assault with a firearm, possession of a loaded and concealed weapon, possession of a firearm while committing a felony, and conspiracy to commit a crime.
The arraignment for the three defendants will take place on May 16 at 9 am in Department 9.